FocusEduVation's Blog

July 23, 2009

US Divided – Educational Outsourcing

Filed under: Focus EduVation — Focus EduVation @ 11:22 am

apr05_outsourcing

Welcome to the latest trend in the world of outsourcing. With the students in the US increasingly relying on overseas tutors, online tutoring has become the newest industry to be outsourced to other countries.

The US demand for overseas tutors is creating such a thriving industry in India that about 80 per cent of India’s 5 million dollars online tutoring industry is focused on students in the United States, according to a report in the Washington Post on Monday.

It said that thousands of US students rely on tutors, especially in India and China, to boost their grades and SAT scores. The tutors, who communicate with students over the Internet, are inexpensive and available around the clock.

Tutoring companies contend that if low-paid workers in China and India can sew your clothes, process your medical bills and answer your computer questions, why can’t they teach your children, too?

Educational outsourcing, as it has come to be known, has become even more contentious as companies try to tap into the millions of dollars available under the ‘No Child Left Behind Act’ — a program set up by the Bush administration to ensure education for all. Funds under this program is made available for tutorials (remedial tutoring as it is known in the US).

Studyloft.com, a Chicago-based tutoring company with more than 6,000 clients, and a California-based company — Growing Stars, hope to qualify for those funds. More than 400 students have enrolled with Growing Stars, whose 50 tutors, most of them with master’s degrees, work in an office in Cochin.

Most of the US students are very happy getting help from their overseas tutors. They say they got A grades in mathematics and Statistics and also have high Sat scores because of the tutoring they got from Indian teachers.

However, educational outsourcing, like the rest of the outsourcing business, has come in for severe criticism in the US.

The Post quoted Rob Weil, deputy director of educational issues at the American Federation of Teachers: ‘We don’t believe that education should become a business of outsourcing.

‘When you start talking about overseas people teaching children, it just doesn’t seem right to me.’

Teachers unions are vigorously lobbying for legislation that would make it more difficult for overseas tutors to receive ‘No Child Left Behind funds’.

Weil, of the American Federation of Teachers, said after-school tutors should be required to pass the same rigorous certification process as public school teachers.

When Studyloft.com, a Chicago-based tutoring company with more than 6,000 clients, advertised in Bangalore for tutors with master’s degrees, more than 500 people applied for 38 spots, according to Bikram Roy, the firm’s founder and chief executive.

‘There is just a huge hotbed of talent there in math and science,” he said. ‘India has the best tutors — the best teachers — in the world.’

The Indian teachers also work hard on their pronunciation skills.

Some of them, who have master’s degrees in business administration and mathematics, went through two weeks of accent reduction and cultural training. They also learned for the first time about baseball and ice-skating and had to memorise strange-sounding American holidays.

But the effort was worth it because they make $300 a month, much more than what teachers earn in India.

But some tutoring companies in the US worry that outsourcing could be bad for business. Francesco Lecciso, a director of New York-based Brainfuse Online Tutoring, said only 70 of the firm’s 1,000 tutors live abroad, in India and Chile.

‘It’s used as a pejorative weapon by our competitors,’ he said. ‘It such a hot-button political issue. ‘

Yet some companies are thinking of educational outsourcing on a much broader scale than just tutoring. The Kentucky Community and Technical College System is outsourcing the grading of some papers to Smarthinking, a district-based online tutoring company that works with 70,000 students at 300 schools across the country and has both tutors in the United States and abroad.

The Post quoted Burck Smith, the firm’s chief executive and co-founder to say that ‘Essentially we are acting as the teaching assistant. We can do better service, more consistent service, and at a better price.’

Smith says he believes that eventually schools will outsource their office hours, review sessions and other aspects of instruction to teachers that might be located anywhere in the world. Right now, about 20 per cent of Smarthinking’s 500 tutors are in countries such as India, the Philippines, Chile, South Africa and Israel.

About Focus EduVation: Focus EduVation based just outside of Boston, MA and are an Education Management company. Focus EduVation is in the space of writing Items for formative assessments, standards alignment, Media development, test scoring, grading services and curriculum design. Including writing lesson plans with differentiated instruction, PowerPoint Lessons (for in-class use) for the teachers and guided practice and application activities for the students.

Source : Rediff News

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